Video Game Review: Dark Souls II – Scholar of the First Sin (PlayStation 4)

I may come off sounding like a total dick in this review but after the experience that was the first Dark Souls game, this one was a grave disappointment while still being pretty decent for the most part.

My initial gripe with it was that I hated how they changed the stat system to deliberately make the game harder, as well as how upon each death, you lose 10 percent of your total health bar unless you return to human form after being hollowed. To do that, though, you have to consume a human effigy, which early on in the game are very rare. Plus, they’re a limited item. Using them all up too soon, fucks you as the game gets even harder.

The beginning of this game is exceedingly difficult, even more so than the original game. Initially, the controllers felt off and I later learned that you needed to build up your “adaptability” stat in order to properly back-step and dodge-roll. So with that little bullshit tweak to the system, you’re kind of fucked on employing the defensive techniques that became second nature after the first game.

Beyond that, the hit boxes are a nightmare. Multiple times, I was standing behind an enemy to go for the good ol’ backstab and he killed me, even though he attacked forward, which was in the opposite direction of my character.

Also, the game does some real bullshittery with the targeting system, which caused me to die a. fucking. lot!

Additionally, the overall world is kind of boring even if it does look incredible. The first game blew my mind on how every area was interconnected in neat and creative ways, giving you multiple paths to hit or escape from an area. This game just has paths and each path is pretty straightforward and linear. It makes the game’s world less immersive and a lot more basic. It’s a major step backwards for how well-crafted the first game’s world was.

Another issue was that there are just so many knight-type villains that it gets tiresome and boring fighting all the various types of essentially the same enemy. This also carries over into the boss fights, which were mostly superpowered knights that you kind of approach and fight in the same way.

Sure, there are other villain types but you basically have four categories: knights/hollows, dragons/beasts, sorcerers and annoying shit (like the ice porcupines and the crawling poison spitter critters).

With that being said, the game gets repetitive and boring and while I’d get these spurts of energy upon entering a new area, I’d soon find out that it was full of similar shit with a different skin.

Plus, the boss fights in this seem to be a hell of a lot harder than the first game, which was super damn hard on its own. Except, the boss battles aren’t hard for reasons other than the bosses have huge health bars, your weapons do minimal damage and you basically have to dodge-roll multiple attacks and then get in one or two quick hits, assuming you don’t need to replenish your health. These fights are just long, tiresome and lack any real creativity.

And frankly, the game, as a whole, lacks the creativity of the original. This was pretty surprising to me but upon investigation, I learned that Hidetaka Miyazaki, the series’ creator, wasn’t as involved on this game as much as he was on the previous one because he was developing Bloodborne, a game I look forward to playing in the near future.

Lastly, as far as negatives go, I just wasn’t into this story like I was the first game. Yes, these games actually have very minimal story but the lore and mystery of the first game really captivated me while this one seemed like a simple rehash that lacked passion.

Are there positives? Well, sure.

This is a Dark Souls game and if you like the first one, you’ll generally like this one too, in spite of its myriad of problems. You still get overwhelmed by a genuine sense of accomplishment when you finally beat that tough boss that killed you a dozen times or when you find that very helpful shortcut after trying to conquer a nightmare of an area for a day or two. And honestly, that’s the most important factor in these games for me. I love the way they make me feel, as a lifelong gamer, because they throw you against impossible odds and it takes the development of real skill to adapt to and eventually crush these challenges.

Look, I don’t hate Dark Souls II but I also don’t have this burning desire to run through the entire game three or four times like I did the first one. Honestly, I just feel like I’m done with it and I should move on to Dark Souls III with the hope that it corrected the problems this game had.

Rating: 7.5/10